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settling in at nursery a disaster - tips and wisdom needed!

(8 Posts)
MoJangles Fri 30-Sep-11 22:38:50

My almost 11 mo DS is at the peak of separation anxiety, and starting nursery is coming at exactly the wrong time. We've had 5 settling in hours at nursery and so far he's played happily for the time I've been with him, and cried constantly and refused to be put down when I'm not there. The one time I left him for an hour he kept it up the whole time and was shattered.

It's wrecking his confidence away from nursery, he now clings and cries much more, screaming when I walk away from him. He even reacts to DH, visitors and anyone leaving the room - any separation seems to be a threat.

The nursery are being brilliant, giving us extra settle sessions, and the key worker is even coming over for an hour on Sunday to play with him at home. I always say goodbye cheerfully and briefly, and greet him with a big smile when I come back (he doesn't know about sobbing in the carpark in between). For his next settle we'll take his comfort jellycat.

Is there anything else I can do apart from not going back to work or toughing it out? Glimpses of light much needed in this dark end-of-maternity-leave tunnel...

garliclover Fri 30-Sep-11 23:20:06

My DS (15 mo) and I are in a similar sort of situation but there is light at the end of the tunnel, or so I have been assured by so many of my friends and my brother whose 3 DCs go to nursery. They have all said that it's far easier for them and you if you leave them for longer, not just an hour here and there. Then they get a chance to settle down, look around them, play, interact with their keyworker, etc. I have certainly found a big improvement since DS has been there for a morning and afternoon session. His comfort object is also a jellycat (a sweet doleful-looking dog), and I'm sure it's no coincidence that he's become more attached to it since starting nursery. It has helped him at naptimes, definitely.

It's great that your keyworker is so committed -- that bodes really well! Good luck smile

MoJangles Sat 01-Oct-11 20:52:38

Thanks garliclover . Interesting that longer sessions might actually help... so far he's always been so worn out by crying that longer seems impossible, but this week he's due to start a full day and a half day. I seriously doubt the wisdom of the full day but we'll see...

Glad your DS is doing better, and good luck to both of you smile

RubyrooUK Sat 01-Oct-11 21:37:21

It does get better - I promise - but it does take nerves of steel to get there.

My DS was 9 months when he started nursery, so a bit younger than yours, but oh boy did he have separation anxiety! We went on holiday just before he started nursery and he refused to let his dad hold him at all - only mum would do. I had to take him to the loo with me because he was so clingy.

Anyway, he was hysterical when I left him for the first time. They called me after 35mins. The next time he stayed an hour and screamed the whole time. The next time 1.5hrs - screamed the whole time. And so on....

The nursery were really kind. I said that I wanted to come every day because I thought frequency of visits meant he would get the idea quicker that we went there and I always came back. So I did. For three weeks settling and then I forced my mum to stay for a week so he could do short days.

He got better slowly. First he cried a lot and had short breaks of being happier. He would be so upset when he saw me again and seemed clingier outside nursery.

But this only lasted a short time. The things that helped:
- the nursery told me to drop him and get straight out the room rather than hanging round when I left him there.
- my husband dropped him off more than me as my son seemed to find it less of a betrayal when his dad did it.
- the nursery asked lots about things he liked and tried them all. E.g., he likes music and so they put on a CD pretty much constantly for the first few weeks to distract him. If it worked even for 2 minutes, they tried it again and again.

Anyway, I know there is nothing anyone can say that really helps when it's your child crying and unhappy at nursery. I felt at the time that it must be a million times worse for my child than any other because he is so attached to me, but of course everyone feels that way!

He has now been at nursery for nearly five months and it probably took two for him to be reasonably tolerant of it. After three, I think he began liking it. After four, I could confidently say that he liked it and had half the staff at his beck and call. A few times recently, he hasn't even cried when I drop him off.

He is still a big fan of me and when he is not at nursery, he still wants to be attached to me whenever we are in the same room. But he is also very happy and no different in behaviour on weekend evenings, so I figure being close to me is just his personality/age. We are still very, very close and while I spent ages at the start of nursery settling thinking:
- maybe I shouldn't go back to work as this isn't right for my baby
- and this will affect my amazing relationship with my son forever

....that hasn't been true. While I miss him terribly at times, he seems so confident at nursery now (they rung me recently because he was a bit quiet because he is so cheery always - early crying now forgotten).

I can't say this will be your experience obviously, but I wanted to tell you that it can be awful, awful, awful and end up being ok. If you want to ask me anything at all, please do.

Good luck.

Tee2072 Sat 01-Oct-11 21:45:04

I have to agree about short settling in not working. My son absolutely would not settle until I said 'That's it. I have to work.' and left him for the day. It broke my heart as he cried at drop off for about another month but only for 5 minutes and then would have a great day.

He's been going for just over a year now and he rushes off without even saying good bye and pretends not to see me when I pick him up!

MoJangles Sat 01-Oct-11 21:50:28

Rubyroo thanks for your story! Although I'm swallowing hard at the thought that it might take 2-3 months of crying before he starts tolerating it. And I hear you about being secretly petrified that this will break our lovely bond (although in my case my bond with DS is unique and no-one else has such a wonderful baby so the universe should drop everything and help me protect our attachment wink )

Ok, we'll try DH dropping him off, thanks, and I will try not to feel like I'm shirking. And I'll keep re-reading your post to remind myself that things will get better...

RubyrooUK Sat 01-Oct-11 22:27:00

Oh and when I said he kept crying for 2-3 months, I meant bits of crying, especially when I dropped him/picked him up. NOT the whole time. That stopped by the time I went back to work.

Sorry - was just trying to say that it does take ages for some babies to be actively happy going to nursery. But that does not mean crying all day and being devastated after the first horrible bit.

Now I just obsess when he doesn't even blink when I drop him off that I have fallen out of favour. :-)

Oh, I forgot another tip. I love to eat breakfast as a family but the nursery asked if they could give him such porridge when he arrived to give him something to look forward to/concentrate on/distract him.

So now he has a little bit of yoghurt at home at 7am, then porridge at nursery about 8:30ish. And I do think that helped too.

Sorry if none of these work. Every baby is really different so this might all be useless. But I hope things improve. My DS can already no longer remember the hell of nursery settling in; as you can tell by how much I have written, I will remember forever!!!

MoJangles Sun 02-Oct-11 21:18:03

Ah, that sounds better, I think I'd be resigning if he sobbed for months! I long for the not even blinking when I drop him off worry - although I can imagine it's actually quite pang-inducing!

DS isn't a major breakfast person so I'm not sure porridge at nursery is going to be a big enough incentive, but I'll bank it to try later if he gets keener, thanks.

I can see this will take us mums longer to get over than the bubbas. I'm already scarred and I'm not even back at work yet. There's a bit of me that's angry that we impose the universe on our babies this young - they're not supposed to be able to do without their mummies for ages yet and all this 'he's not coping' stuff is because they're not supposed to have to. But I guess there's no point in me feeling angry about it unless I'm prepared to resign from work, sell up and move to a hovel smaller house we can afford on DH's salary alone.

Got a bit grim there! Thanks for the help!

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